Why doesn’t my American Express card work at Costco?

Young woman in front of refrigeration case with cheese and dairy, shopping in a warehouse-style grocery store.Image: Young woman in front of refrigeration case with cheese and dairy, shopping in a warehouse-style grocery store.

In a Nutshell

If you’re headed to Costco and planning to use a credit card to pay for your wholesale goods, make sure it’s a Visa because your American Express card won’t be accepted there anymore.
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You head off on your errand run and swing by Costco to stock up on paper towels, potato chips and protein bars. You’re calculating how much you’re saving in your head and head to the register. That’s when it hits you.

You don’t have a Visa credit card and don’t have enough cash to pay for the items in your cart. You take out your trusty American Express card to swipe it through the machine only to see that the payment doesn’t go through.

Why doesn’t my American Express card work at Costco?

For a long time, starting in 1999, American Express was Costco’s exclusive credit card partner. It was the only type of credit card accepted at the store, and if members of the wholesale giant wanted a credit card with Costco-related rewards, their only option was to get a co-branded American Express/Costco card.

But that changed when Costco and American Express decided to end their relationship in 2016. After that, Costco went on to name Citi as its exclusive credit card issuer and Visa as its new exclusive credit card network for Costco in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Since then, American Express has been out and Citi along with Visa has been in — and that has a few implications for Costco members.

Today if you want to use a credit card after shopping at the bulk superstore, there are a few things you should know.

  • You can only use a Visa if you’re paying by credit card at Costco.
  • If you want a co-branded credit card with a Costco logo on it, you can now only get it through Citi.
  • In addition to Visa cards, Costco still accepts cash, checks, most debit and ATM cards, electronic benefit transfer (EBT) and Costco Shop Cards.

So, what cards do work at Costco?

If you’re a Costco fan but don’t have a Visa credit card, there’s no need to worry. There are many cards available to meet your needs and still give you the option to continue shopping at Costco.

Here’s one we recommend checking out.

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi 

From our partner

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

3.9 out of 5

From cardholders in the last year

See details, rates & fees

Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi is a co-branded Costco/Citi credit card and a great option for frequent Costco shoppers. It’s a rewards card that gives you cash back at the pump, when eating out, while shopping at Costco, on Costco.com purchases and more.

Here’s a full summary of the cash back rewards you’ll get with this card.

  • 4% cash back on eligible gas around the world and at Costco gas stations (up to $7,000 annually, 1% cash back after that)
  • 3% cash back at restaurants and on eligible travel purchases
  • 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

A quick note on cash back rewards: You’ll get an annual reward certificate at the close of the billing cycle each February summing up the amount of cash back you accrued throughout the year. You can then redeem your cash back at any Costco warehouses in the U.S. in the form of cash or merchandise.

The card also doesn’t have an annual fee if you have a paid Costco membership. But you’ll need a Costco membership to shop at the store, and annual memberships range from $60 to $120. Fortunately, once you have a membership, this card can act as your membership ID card.

Is the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi right for you?

Your lifestyle and interests can play important roles when deciding on a rewards card. Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi might be a great fit if you shop regularly at Costco, enjoy eating out and fill up your gas tank at least weekly.

But you may find a different Visa that better matches your needs. Another Visa card you might want to consider is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Bottom line

Before you head out to Costco, make sure there is a Visa in your wallet if you’re going to use a credit card because your American Express card won’t work there.

Whether you decide to go with the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi or another Visa card depends on your situation and interests. No matter which card you choose, make sure it makes sense for you and gives you what you want from a credit card.

About the author: Les Masterson has covered presidential politics, local government, personal finance, credit cards, insurance, healthcare and everything in between in his 20-plus years in journalism and content creation. He has won aw… Read more.